Major General Donald J. Strait was born on April 28, 1918 in East Orange, New Jersey. He enlisted in the 119th Observation Squadron with the New Jersey Air National Guard in 1940. Starting out as an armorer, he quickly advanced to an aerial gunner onboard O-46 and O-47 observation aircraft. In March 1942 he qualified for pilot training and received his Wings at Maxwell Field in Alabama as well as his commission as a 2nd Lt. in January, 1943.
Strait began flying the P-47 right after receiving his wings and finished his transition training in March of 1943 where he was assigned to the 361st Fighter Squadron, 356th Fighter Group at Westover Field, MA. He was also assigned as the squadron's assistant engineering officer and had the chance to undertake all aircraft flight tests. The squadron finished P-47 operational training by the summer of 1943 and by August was deployed Martlesham Heath, England as part of the Eighth Air Force.
During his tour with the 356th Fighter Group, Straight participated in long range bomber escort missions as well as air to ground support of the allied forces. In November of 1944 Strait began flying P-51 Mustangs as the commander of the 361st Fighter Squadron during his second tour combat tour. During one particular encounter, Strait led 16 P-51s on an escort mission when he spotted 40 German BF-109s. The P-51 flight dropped tanks and attacked the enemy aircraft. Strait counted more than 100 more German fighters during the fight preparing attack American bombers. After a considerable amount of dogfighting, fuel ran low and the fighters had to return to base. Strait's squadron recorded 23 German fighter kills that day without losing a single Mustang.
By the end of the war, Donald Strait had
completed two combat tours, 122 missions in the
P-47 and P-51, and wracked up 13 ½ enemy aircraft
kills. After WWII, Strait went back to the New Jersey Air
National Guard and served as the Squadron, Group, and Wing
Commander of the 108th Tactical Fighter Wing during the
Korean War and Berlin crisis. General Strait graduated
from the Air War College in 1955 and was appointed by President
Eisenhower as Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Air Force
for Reserve and ROTC Affairs. He retired from the Air Force
as a Major General in 1978.
Donald Strait, in light of his many meritorious actions, has received the Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross (two Oak Leaf Clusters), Air Medal (14 Oak Leaf Clusters), Presidential Unit Citation, Victory Medal, European Theater Ribbon (4 Battle Stars), American Defense Ribbon, USAF Exceptional Civilian Service Award, and the Republic of Vietnam Gallantry Cross with Palm (1966-1970). In 1989 he was inducted into the New Jersey Aviation Hall of Fame.
Today General Strait resides in Jacksonville, North Carolina where he enjoys golfing and woodworking as well as being an avid sports enthusiast.